There was no easy way to the championship of the 2014 IT&E Northern Marianas Junior Championships, as both title matches in the girls and boys singles divisions went to extended sets.
Fifth-ranked Jack Barber of the U.S. and Japanese Yurie Takanishi survived the three-set finale to top the Grade 5 event and bag the 30 world ranking points at stake at this second Junior ITF event the CNMI hosted.
Barber fought a nagging wrist injury that forced him to withdraw from a doubles semifinals match and outlasted the second-seeded Taisei Miyamoto in the boys finals championships game that lasted two hours and 34 minutes last Saturday at the Pacific Islands Club hard court. The U.S. junior player cruised past Miyamoto in the first set, 6-1, but had to go the distance after the Japanese labored a 6-3 win in the second set. In the deciding third set, Barber came out smoking and earned a 6-2 victory to rule the 32-player field.
The 17-year-old and No. 562-ranked American advanced to the finals after sweeping Hong Kong and seventh-seeded Ming Chun Alan Sou in the semifinals in the upper half of the draw last Friday, 6-0, 6-3. In the bottom half of the semis, Miyamoto also came from a straight set victory over Australian and No. 8 pick Benard Bruno Nkomba, 6-2, 6-2.
In the two-hour girls singles finale, Takanishi completed her upset run in the tournament with the victory over compatriot and fourth-ranked Nanaka Takeuchi. Takanishi, who had to go through a qualifying tournament and beat foes at the top of the bracket to march into the finals, set up the impending upset after an impressive 6-3 win in the opening set of the finals. The 15-year-old Japanese then went up, 5-3, in the second set to move one point way from a finals sweep before Takeuchi fought back and stole the set, 7-5, to extend the title game. In the third set, fatigue caused by her late rally in the second took its toll on Takeuchi, who committed several unforced errors, allowing Takanishi to walk away with a title-clinching 6-1 win.
Takanishi, who eliminated the No. 1 seed Yinglat Jittakoat and seeded pick Kanako Ota in the early rounds, bagged the finals berth at the top half of the draw after another stunner over the third-ranked Ayano Shimizu in the semifinals last Friday, 7-5, 6-2. In the other semis pairing last Friday, Takeuchi foiled an all-qualifier finals after ending Ayumi Hirata’s run, 7-5, 6-3.
Ackerman wins; Lee makes finals
Meanwhile, the CNMI’s Tammy Ackerman and Jake Lee both made it to the finals of the consolation draw.
Ackerman, who bowed to Hirata in the first round of the main draw, notched three victories in the consolation draw to rule the field. She first shut out fellow CNMI bet Grace Choice, 4-0, 4-0, and then outclassed Japan’s Asumi Kanazawa, 5-4 (5), 2-4, 10-5, to barge into the finals against another Japanese player Maine Hiramatsu. Hiramatsu prevented an all-CNMI finals after booting out Mimi Sakano in the other semis duel, 4-2, 4-0. In the finals, Ackerman waltzed to a 6-3, 6-1 win.
In the lower bracket, it was Yuki Watanabe’s turn to foil an all-CNMI finale when he swept Moris Villanueva in the semifinals, 4-0, 4-1. Watanabe went on to beat Lee in the finals, 4-0, 4-0.